WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. environmental regulators finalized rules on Monday aimed at cutting mercury emissions and other pollution from Portland cement manufacturing, the third-largest source of mercury air emissions in the country.
When fully implemented in 2013, EPA estimates annual mercury emissions from Portland cement manufacturing will be cut 16,600 pounds, or 92 percent, and particulate matter will fall 11,500 tons or 92 percent.
“This administration is committed to reducing pollution that is hurting the health of our communities,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a release.
The EPA estimates that the rules will yield $6.7 billion to $18 billion in health and environmental benefits. It estimates costs at $926 million to $950 million annually in 2013. Another EPA analysis estimates emission reductions and costs will be lower, with costs projected to be $350 million annually.
The agency is expected to issue rules on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants next year. Experts say those rules could help force the oldest and least efficient coal-fired power plants into early retirement.
Mercury in the air eventually reaches freshwater, where it changes into a toxic form that builds up in fish. People are primarily exposed to mercury by eating contaminated fish and the pollutant can lead to development problems in infants and children.
Particle pollution is linked to a wide variety of health problems, including aggravated asthma, irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, and premature death in people with heart and lung disease.
The rules set the first U.S. limits on mercury air emissions from existing cement kilns, strengthens existing limits for new kilns, and set emission limits that will reduce acid gases. The final action also limits particle pollution from new and existing kilns, and sets new kiln limits for particle and smog-forming nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide.
The cement industry complained the rules would hurt producers who are already suffering from the poor economy.
Brian McCarthy, the head of the Portland Cement Association, said the new rules would lead to cement plant closures, job loses, and a reduction in U.S. cement production capacity.
Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Gregorio
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